Interview with Mikael Andéhn on the Meaning of Place, Capitalism and the Potential Limitations of Place Branding

Mikael Andéhn, researcher and lecturer at Royal Holloway University of London, in this interview takes a critical look at place branding and place marketing, elaborates on the meaning of place and how it is influenced by capitalism.

Mikael, do you remember the first time you heard about the idea of places as brands and the marketization of cities or regions? What (or who!) triggered your interest in the topic?

I had some excellent teachers as an undergraduate at the sociology department at Stockholm University and through them was expertly introduced to the works of the likes of Karl Marx, C. Wright Mills, and Jean Baudrillard. This prompted my interest in how various things are absorbed into a logic and aesthetic that would typically be associated to the world of commerce.

Far later, I think it was due to reading Ernest Mandels book “Late capitalism” on a whim, I was very much enamored by the idea that capitalism, as a historical process, operates in phases in which its principles gradually become more engrained and pervasive in all aspects of the social world.

I found that idea to apply quite readily to both the evolving understanding of places in general, as well as to any managerial intervention pertaining to the cultivation of that understanding to a specific end. Places, to me, are just one instance in which this greater process is particularly palpable.

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